TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, September 15, 2018

What Can Law Schools Learn From Grade-Nondisclosure In Elite Business Schools?

JohnsonJohnson Students Vote to Enact Grade Non-Disclosure:

Johnson students have voted to enact a policy of grade non-disclosure, effective September 7, 2018. The student-driven policy applies to the school’s full-time students in its Two-Year, One-Year, and Johnson Cornell Tech MBA programs. ...

Under the terms of the referendum, students will not disclose their grades to recruiters until after a full-time, post-graduation job offer has been extended. The policy covers grade point averages (GPAs), grades in courses, and grades on assignments or exams. Exceptions include dual degree students who are pursuing non-MBA roles (e.g. JD/MBA candidates who needs to disclose their GPAs to law firm recruiters), Johnson Cornell Tech students applying to positions not restricted to MBAs at the Cornell Tech campus, and students applying for fellowships, public sector, international, and/or nonprofit positions.

“The exceptions are important. For example, for some positions, such as in the federal government, students are required to share a GPA,” says David Capaldi, MBA ’95, and director of Johnson’s Career Management Center. “Where the policy applies, we are asking that recruiters respect the student referendum and refrain from asking Johnson students about their grades.”

Poets & Quants, Cornell MBAs Join ‘Grade Non-Disclosure’ Ranks:

Grade nondisclosure advocates say the policy gives students freedom to branch out, to take more challenging classes without worrying about a negative impact to their GPAs. Because grades won’t be revealed to potential employers, any inclination to “take the easy way out” has been mitigated. Furthermore, an absence of academic competitiveness is thought to facilitate better networking and the development of stronger relationships.

Wharton, Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, UC-Berkeley Haas, Michigan Ross, and Columbia Business School are among the many elite schools with some form of grade non-disclosure. ...

Opponents of grade non-disclosure say while it may not incline students to take it easy in their choice of electives, it often cause them to take a more relaxed approach in the classroom, since they do not have to worry about grades being a reason they don’t get a job. Harvard famously reversed its grade non-disclosure policy in 2008; at the time, Richard Ruback, then chairman of Harvard’s MBA program, said “numerous students had claimed that the non-disclosure policy resulted in little motivation to excel.”

Inside Higher Ed, Grades: Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

By 2007, according to one study, five highly selective business schools had some sort of nondisclosure policy. Today, about a dozen such institutions have some such policy. ...

The original idea behind grade nondisclosure parallels the rationale behind pass-fail policies: exact grades aren't the be-all-and-end-all of success, and experience and experimentation matter. A particular concern in business programs is student competitiveness, which can hinder teamwork and therefore preparation for a field that relies on it. ...

While academic risk-taking and increased collaboration are reasons that numerous institutions have adopted nondisclosure policies, these policies have their critics, too -- especially faculty members who say that nondisclosure encourages underperformance.

2011 study of nondisclosure policies published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, found that self-reported levels of academic effort had dropped in relation to disclosure, and that that challenged the idea that students were using it as an opportunity to challenge themselves. A Wharton dean also reported that time spent on coursework had dropped 22 percent in a four-year period after nondisclosure was adopted, based on student surveys, according to the study.

The NBER paper also questioned why only elite programs adopted these policies, since distinguishing oneself at the top of one's class was still important at lower-tier programs.

Jennifer Bard (Former Dean, Cincinnati), Imagine if There Were No Grades:

I don’t think that this practice by a few business schools is all that relevant to [law schools] because their employment process is so different from ours. ... But there is extensive research done by medical schools on removing grades from undergraduate medical education that could be helpful to us. ... [M]any medical schools have found that removing final grades (not removing assessment) enhances performance. Students were under less pressure, and there is extensive literature supporting the I know counter-intuitive fact that pressure is bad for long term learning. Good (although not great) for cramming, terrible for long-term retention of information.

Thinking about removing grades in legal education, no matter how unrealistic that actually is, is a helpful thought experiment because it addresses something that I think is our greatest challenge in legal education: the degradation of academic motivation after receiving poor first year grades. ...

[N]owhere in this post have I suggested that Law Schools would be better off if we “eliminated“ or even deemphasized final grades. This is not a situation entirely in our control and unlike medical schools which can outsource professional sorting to standardized licensing exams, our students rely on us to present them in the best possible light to employers. We also can’t do much to change the on-campus interview process where students receive a very direct and often brutal understanding of their marketability to large law firms. ...  

What I am suggesting is that we get some help from our friends in academic support as well as in educational psychology and other areas of the University, including STEM education and sociology, to find out more about what motivates our students. ... [A]ny steps we can take to prevent students from feeling that they are irrevocably bad at law makes it easier for them to persevere in learning something that is at first difficult. ...

We will all (students and faculty) be better off by engaging the whole student body for all three years. It is also in the interests of our students’ future clients that they all graduate from law school with the belief that if they work hard they can achieve excellent legal results for their clients. So it’s worth looking at what we can do to make that happen — even if removing grades isn’t the answer.

Legal Education | Permalink


safe spaces, cry-ins, coloring books, and puppies too!

Posted by: Anon | Sep 15, 2018 8:54:59 AM